Crooks have ramped up theft of catalytic converters from cars in recent years.
The auto part contains three rare earth metals — platinum, palladium and rhodium. The device cleans vehicle exhaust before it’s released into the air, making modern automobiles more environmentally friendly.
Phoenix police on Thursday discovered a mother lode of the car parts in an inconspicuous storage unit. A suspect was charged with 40 counts of unlawful purchase or sale of a used catalytic converter in connection to the parts, which police said were stolen.
Shelton Ford was accused of buying and selling the stolen parts. He reportedly operated the storage unit near Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport.
Phoenix police indicated that the bust came after an investigation into the stolen catalytic converter trade that had lasted for months.
#PHXPD recovers more than 1,000 used and detached catalytic converters from a storage unit while serving a search warrant.
This concludes a months long investigation into a suspect accused of buying and selling them. pic.twitter.com/OwKUYbIBsF
— Phoenix Police (@PhoenixPolice) May 26, 2022
“We were very surprised at the amount in there,” said Det. Adam Popelier of the bust. “I would say at least half had the typical markings of being stolen: the cut ends, the damaged pipes.”
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“Others looked like they had been unbolted, so they could have come from other places.”
According to The Associated Press, reports of catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed in recent years.
Victims reported 3,969 thefts in 2019, compared to 17,000 in 2020, and a whopping 52,000 last year.
Replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost as much as $3,000, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. It’s a price sometimes high enough to make repairing the car nonviable.
Earlier this month, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law into effect to fight the theft of catalytic converters, which appears even more commonplace in the state.
The new law makes possession of the devices a crime in some circumstances when they’ve been separated from a vehicle and mandates new regulations on the trade of the parts, such as requiring scrapyards to keep them in their original condition for a week.
Federally, lawmakers such as Rep. Jim Baird of Indiana are pushing legislation that would require catalytic converters to be serialized for tracking and accountability.